Five reasons Team USA has strong chance of world juniors medal

Coach Bob Motzko had wondered how his Team USA would handle hardship and misfortune, and now he wonders no more.

After seeing their respected captain Luke Kunin ejected for being a fraction late on a hit on Canadian defenseman Philippe Myers, the Americans (4-0) pulled together to record a 3-1 win against Canada (3-1) on Saturday to win their pool at the world junior championships.

“We certainly didn’t want that scenario,” Motzko said. “But we had not hit adversity (before then). And you know it was going to come at some point, and you have to learn to overcome it. Again, you don’t want it to happen that way, but it was another critical growing point for us.”.

Myers was injured on the play, and it’s unknown whether Kunin (Minnesota Wild) will be suspended going into the USA’s quarterfinal game against Switzerland on Monday.

Team USA beats Canada to win group at World Junior Championships.

The American group’s mental toughness has played a role in the team’s early success. Here are the other reasons why the Americans have a good chance at winning their fifth medal in eight years at the tournament that showcases top NHL prospects:.

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2. Elite goaltending: The USA’s tandem of Tyler Parsons (Calgary Flames) and Joseph Woll (Toronto Maple Leafs) have a combined .929 save percentage. Each owns a 1.50 goals-against average. Only the Swedes have been sharper in net.

“This is the strength of our team and we’ve used it,” Motzko said. “Don’t be surprise if we continue (the rotation.)”.

3. Better-than-expected defensive play: Defense was supposed to be the question mark. But the Americans have only given up three even-strength goals in four games. It’s not just about the goaltending.

“We have a lot of guys who block a lot of shots,” said Team USA winger Jordan Greenway (Minnesota Wild). “We have a lot of dedicated guys who are doing what they have to do.”.

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4. Long list of scorers: Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes) and Colin White (Ottawa Senators) are among the leading offensive stars in the tournament. Keller has seven points, and White has four goals in four games.

But different guys have stepped up in different games, and in different ways. Greenway, a 6-5 bullish winger, drove to the net with purpose and registered a goal and two assists against Canada.

“Especially with my big body, that’s how I play,” Greenway said. “But that was a focus of mine (against Canada).”.

Jeremy Bracco (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Troy Terry (Anaheim Ducks) have made important offensive contributions. Bracco recently had a 26-game point-scoring streak in the Ontario Hockey League. He netted the goal that made it 3-1 against Canada, and has been visible in every U.S. Game.

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5. No weak links: The way Motzko puts it is that “the strength of our team is the depth of our team.” Everyone has accepted his role.

Defenseman Ryan Lindgren (Boston Bruins) doesn’t have a point in the tournament, but he was voted the USA’s player of the game against Canada because of his smart defensive play.

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